Our first edition of Langtang Fast Pack (LFP) was a huge success in terms of adventures done. We covered a lot of ground: 153 km/95miles in distance and 11,800m/38,700ft in total elevation gain over 11 dayson the trail!
With the goal of starting and ending in Kathmandu on foot, we began at Budhanilknatha Temple gate in the northern part of the city, below the valley rim in the edge of Shiva Puri National park. We started almost immediately with a tough climb up to Bhagdraw, a spring whose waters are considered the headwaters of the holy Bagmati river in Kathmandu where many Hindus come to be cremated in the river.
We paused here and climbed close to the top of Shivapuri peak before following some very pleasant trails to Chisopani where the earthquake still very much looked like it happened yesterday.
Our overall route would meander through the Helambu region to the scared lakes in Gosaikunda via Laurebina Pass (4,610m/15,120ft) before finally entering the picturesque Langtang Valley. Our plan was to traverse this moving to the east up the valley before scrambling up a rarely visited pass – Kanja La (5,130m) before circling back to complete the circle and rejoin the stick in our lollipop.
For the first night, we stopped at Thankune Bhangyanj. Seth and Sudeep remember stopping here for snacks during their Langtang lollipop trip in October 2016. For the second night, we reached Magengoth after passing through Kutumsang where the checkpoint of Langtang National Park is, inside an army barrack. The sight of Rhododendron flowers (which also happens to be the national flower of Nepal) along the trail made the day even more pleasant. Before doing the Laurebina Pass we took one partial acclimatization day with a brief walk from Ghopte to Phedi and then a small hike from Phedi towards the pass and back at Phedi.
We crossed the Laurebina Pass on Nepali new year(where the new year turned 2074). There were spots of snow as we climbed to the top of the pass, and then it was more widespread coming down on the other side towards Gosaikunda lake.
We stopped next to the lake some noodle soup in a lodge at about 4,350m, about three hundred meters below the pass. Concerned about symptoms of potential altitude sickness that appeared in one member of the group, we descended quickly. We consulted with our on-call event physician Dr. Pranav Koirala by satellite phone, administered some medication per his advice, and helped guide the participant down – within 1000m virtually all of the symptoms (blurred vision and lethargy) were gone. We were glad to stop for the night in Cholungpati with team spirit high – all were assigned a trail name in a democratic manner. Four inches of snow greeted us the next day with beautiful snowy views all around. Our day started walking on snow till until we reached lower elevations in Sing Gompa where we stocked local yak cheese from a government run cheese factory.
Coming down towards Thulo Syabhru we crossed through a beautiful section of pine forest. After lunch we continued north with views of the Ganesh Range before joining the more popularly used Langtang Valley trail. Here, the group divided into two; a fast group and a cultural group to fit the group dynamics and give participants options to go fast or do some cultural trek which meant more stopping at stupas, viewpoints and chatting with local people. Views of wide yak pastures and yaks, countless mani walls, donkeys carrying a heavy load and being treated poorly and people building up from the rubble were to stop and ponder. The two teams kept in touch by radio and satellite communication device.
After two days of separation, Team Pi (3 Australians, 1 Nepali, and 4 Americans) were nreunited in Kyangin Gompa. It was marked by a ‘Helmet Dinner’ where members wore climbing helmets during dinner. The possibility of doing Kanja Pass got distinct as we consulted with our lodge owner Mr Jhandu Lama(who is also a guide) and other locals in the area. The snow was too high at the pass to safely cross it so we dropped our original plan and opted with our plan B; exploring more of the upper valley and then following the trail back to Syabru Besi. These side trips from Kyangin to Kyangin Ri, Tsergo Ri and Dorjee Bakery were nothing but spectacular. Breathtaking views of Langtang Lirung, Yala Peak, Baden-Powel Peak, Naya Kanga, Kanja Pass and not to mention delicious pies were a norm for at least few days!
Returning on the trail back from Kyanjing Gompa we saw many sites where locals are still building structures(mostly lodges) that were destroyed from the 2015 earthquake. As we crossed the Langtang village, the site of large landslide bed brought stark reminder of the people who lost their lives in Langtang and elsewhere in Nepal. We had some silence and reflection at the memorial site on the north side of the slide.
We took the north trail from Rimche (avoiding the main trail via Bamboo) and stopped at Sherpagaon for our last night on the trail. The last day of the trip we walked from Sherpagaon to Syabru Besi via Kyangjim along a beautiful cliff side trail and not so pleasant couple of miles on the jeep road to Syabru Besi.
The next day we took two jeeps to Kathmandu where we partly crossed Shivapuri Naitonal Park at Gurje Bhyanganj to get in the valley. A team dinner with Nepali cultural show followed that evening.
Big thanks to amazing athletes and friends from Team Pi; Linda Quirk, Colin Suckling, Sandy Suckling, Emma Vaughan, Stephanie Gundel, Daniel Letzler, Sudeep Kandel and Seth Wolpin for becoming part of this adventure. Also, thank you to Sonam Shah for all of her help, we were sorry she was unable to join us on the trip due to an injury.
We are going to try this again next year, same format but an extra day so we are not so rushed leaving Kathmandu and also 6 weeks later (in late May) so there is much less chance of snow on the pass. Hope you can join us! Happy trails and adventures 🙂
-Sudeep and Seth